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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Human And Geopolitical Crisis At Belarus-Poland Border; Homeowner Testifies He Never Saw Ahmaud Arbery Harm Anything At House; Queen Elizabeth To Attend First Public Engagement In Two Weeks. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 12, 2021 - 05:30   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Eleven years in prison. Danny Fenster has been detained since May. He was accused of incitement and sedition in the aftermath of the country's military coup. The news publication Fenster worked for says there is no basis for those charges.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The FBI warning U.S. companies that Iranian hackers could use stolen data to breach their systems. The Bureau says hackers are searching dark web internet forums to access stolen e-mails and network configurations. Companies are being told to consider how that information could be used for further attacks.

JARRETT: Blizzard warnings are in effect across the Upper Midwest. The first significant winter storm of the season is set to hit today across the Dakotas and Minnesota. Up to six inches of snow is expected and winds could top out at 55 miles per hour.

ROMANS: More than two million at-home COVID-19 tests have been recalled. Ellume says there has been a higher than acceptable number of false positives. The FDA confirms 35 reports of false COVID positives.

JARRETT: A big push to boost vaccinations in Colorado. Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order declaring the entire state high-risk for exposure or transmission. That makes all adults eligible for a booster shot as long as they are six months out from their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

ROMANS: Freedom for Britney Spears could be just hours away. A judge in Los Angeles is expected to rule on the pop singer's request to terminate the conservatorship that has controlled her finances and her life for nearly 14 years. Spears' father Jamie has -- was suspended as conservator of his daughter's estate in September. Britney has called the arrangement toxic.

JARRETT: The SpaceX capsule and its four astronauts welcomed aboard with hugs at the International Space Station. They now begin a 6-month science and research mission. The Dragon capsule delivered more than 4,000 pounds of hardware and research equipment to the ISS.

ROMANS: All right, now to the growing human and geopolitical crisis unfolding in eastern Europe. Thousands of people stranded at the border between Belarus and Poland. Most of these migrants are from Asia and the Middle East. They are hoping to travel beyond Poland deeper into Europe.

The E.U. is blaming the authoritarian leader of Belarus for this crisis.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: This is a challenge to the whole of the European Union and this is not a migration crisis. This is the attempt of an authoritarian regime to try to destabilize its democratic neighbors. This will not succeed. But we have to protect our democracies from this kind of cynical geopolitical powerplay.

MARGARITIS SCHINAS, VICE PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN UNION: We are witnessing a major hybrid threat -- an attack at our external border in the east by Europe's last dictator who is weaponizing human suffering to attack Europe.


JARRETT: Authorities closed the border crossing on Tuesday. Now, the leader of Belarus is threatening Europe's gas supply.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live on the Polish side of the border with Belarus near the last checkpoint between the two. Fred, bring out viewers up to speed here on the latest. What exactly is happening there, and why?


Yes -- I mean, the situation here still is extremely tense. And certainly, the situation, especially for those people who are camped out there at the border -- it's devastating.

I mean, one of the things that we've seen over the past couple of days, as we've been reporting from here is that the temperatures, especially at night -- they get extremely cold. It's extremely damp as well. And on a regular basis they go below freezing.

And the people who are camped out there, they're right on the Belarusian side of the border, but right at the border fence with Poland. And Poland put up razor wire, barbed wire, and a lot of soldiers to stop people from getting across the border.

So, essentially, the folks that are camped out there -- they are in limbo right now. On the one hand, you have the Belarusian security forces behind them that are actually not letting them into Belarus -- back into Belarus either, where they could possibly seek shelter.

And on the other hand, of course, you have the border with the E.U. You have the Polish side that is not letting them cross into the European Union. And the Pols have said that they are going to remain steadfast on that as well.

And you're absolutely right. I'm at the final checkpoint before we get into what's called the exclusion zone. Because essentially, the Polish government has done -- is in about a mile from the border. They're not allowing journalists in and they're not allowing NGOs in either. And they have also said, obviously, that they're not going to let the people who are trying to cross across and come into this area either.

In the past couple of hours -- the past 24 hours, the Polish government has said that there were more than 200 attempts to try and get across the border. And we do have some video that the Polish military released earlier today where they said that a fairly large group of people did manage to breach the border.

Now, the Pols say -- and it's obviously impossible for us to independently verify that because we're kept outside of the exclusion zone. The Pols do say that those people were detained and there were orders issued for a lot of them to leave the territory of Poland.


So, what you have right now, right here, and obviously on the other side of the Polish-Belarusian border as well, is you have a massive humanitarian crisis. But it is also, of course, a big standoff between Belarus and the European Union. Of course, Russia involved as well. And really, a dangerous situation here on the eastern flank of NATO, Laura.


Fred, so President Lukashenko is now threatening to cut off gas. That's really Vladimir Putin's call and Russia has shown willingness to use gas as a bargaining chip. And prices spiked in Europe.

Could that happen? Play that out for us.

PLEITGEN: I mean, I think it certainly is something that's not really -- that can be excluded, at least.

And you're absolutely right. Alexander Lukashenko, yesterday in what really seemed to be a tirade, was with his -- with his cabinet. And there he said look, the European Union is now threatening Belarus with further sanctions. Of course, that's what the European Union is saying. They want to further sanction Belarus for what's going on right here as they call this a political crisis.

The U.S., by the way, also talking about drawing up new sanctions against Lukashenko and against his Belarusian regime as well.

So, Lukashenko came out and said look, we are the ones who are heating Europe, as he put it. What happens if we cut that gas off? And, of course, that is an extremely sensitive topic in Europe for exactly the reason that you just mentioned, Christine. And that is that why we have had these issues with gas deliveries to the European Union where there were already some who believed that Russia might be playing a hand in that as well. It's absolutely unclear whether or not Vladimir Putin would go along with something like that because, of course, exporting gas is also a big -- a big, important part of Russia's economy as well. But so far, what we're seeing is it does appear to be the case that Russia is very much firmly in the corner of Alexander Lukashenko. In fact, in the past couple of days we've seen Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers fly over the airspace of Belarus.

And also, the Russian government -- the things that they have been saying have clearly indicated that they are on Lukashenko's side. They've essentially said that they believe that Poland is responsible for all of this, guys.

JARRETT: Fred, all this drama with Belarus is not happening in a vacuum, of course. They've been in the headlines for perhaps all the wrong reasons the last 18 months or so.

Can you put this into larger context for us and just sort of remind us of some of that background?

PLEITGEN: Yes. Yes, and I think -- I think it's absolutely important to do that. Because a lot of people here in Europe believe and certainly European leaders believe that the reason why this is happening is because there has been this long-term standoff that has been going on now between Alexander Lukashenko -- between the regime of Alexander Lukashenko and the European Union.

Of course, all of this started in the summer of last year when you had protests that broke out or that started happening in Belarus where the opposition said that there was an election that they say was rigged -- was severely rigged. The European Union and the United States saying exactly the same thing.

There were largescale protests and those protests were brutally crushed by the Lukashenko regime. I was actually on the ground there for quite a while in the summer of last year when we saw a lot of those detentions taking place.

And the crackdown really has only accelerated since then. In fact, most of the opposition leaders are either in jail or have fled the country.

Then you had a situation this year where the Belarusian regime forced a plane from a European carrier to land in Minsk and then detained an activist from that plane. That obviously led to more sanctions from the European Union. And essentially, Europe believes that because of these sanctions -- because of the standoff that's going on is that essentially, Alexander Lukashenko is trying to get back at the European Union, but also trying to test the European Union's resolve.

And it's something that we hear, especially from the Pols, who have taken a very hard line against Alexander Lukashenko. They say they believe that they need to stand up in this morning -- in this moment. They believe that it's essentially a dictator, as they call it -- or as they put it -- trying to test their resolve. And that's one of the reasons why the Pols say that border is going to remain shut, guys. ROMANS: Hey, Fred -- you know, we listened to the Belarus opposition leader yesterday talking to CNN. Let's listen to what -- to that sound, quickly.


SVIATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA, BELARUSIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: The regime is becoming too costly for the Kremlin to support economically and politically, diplomatically. And, you know, we don't know if the Kremlin is standing behind this -- of this migration crisis. We don't evidences. But they are looking silently on at what's happening but they could play a constructive role in the resolution of the political crisis in Belarus.


ROMANS: What incentive for Putin to keep using Lukashenko as a -- as a puppet? What's the incentive? What's in it for Putin?

PLEITGEN: I think that there is -- there would be several incentives for Russia.

On the one hand, of course, it is -- it would be, at least it seems the Kremlin believes, catastrophic if Alexander Lukashenko were to have to leave power. Because essentially, what you could have then, as far as the Russians are concerned -- is you could have Belarus essentially going into the western orbit, as they -- as they put it. Move closer towards the west.


I mean, you just heard Ms. Tsikhanouskaya there and also other members of the Belarusian opposition who obviously want better ties with the West, and that's certainly not something that the Russians believe would be in their interest.

Now, there has been some talk over the past couple of years and, indeed, some real initiatives to actually move Belarus closer into Russia's orbit where you already have a border regime that they have together. You already have, obviously, a lot of cooperation in the defense sector as well.

But right now, there is a situation where Alexander Lukashenko is essentially still in power because of Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin keeps him in power. The economic ties have gotten a lot closer because of also -- because of a lot of the sanctions that have been levied on Belarus by the West and by the European Union.

And so, therefore, you can feel how Alexander Lukashenko -- more and more, really, by the day and by the week -- is someone who is in power at the behest of Vladimir Putin. And that's certainly something where Vladimir Putin appears to want to keep it that way as well.

And at the same time, of course, if Belarus remains in the orbit of Vladimir Putin and remains a staunch ally of Russia, that's also very important for countries like Ukraine as well. We have seen in the past couple of weeks and in the past couple of days the U.S., for instance, warning that they believe that Russia could be making moves towards Ukraine.

There certainly is a very tense security situation in this part of Europe and it's something that's been going on for a while, so all of that plays into that as well.

And you can see the Ukrainians reacting to all of this. They have also beefed up their border forces as well because they believe that they could be the next to face that destabilization, guys.

JARRETT: Fred, just incredible reporting. Thank you so much for being there for us --

ROMANS: And context.

JARRETT: -- and just walking us through all of it. It's a lot and you do such a nice job. Thank you, Fred.

ROMANS: We'll be right back.



ROMANS: This morning, testimony set to resume in the trial of three men accused in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

On Thursday, a homeowner whose property is at the center of this case, carved a big hole in the defense.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And at any point during your interactions with the McMichaels, did you ever give him permission to go onto your property -- express permission?



ROMANS: And anger this morning over a defense attorney's remark about who should and should not be in that courtroom.

CNN's Martin Savidge has more from Brunswick, Georgia.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Good morning, Christine and Laura.

Day five of testimony was pretty much occupied with the testimony of just one witness. That was Larry English. But he is a key witness because he is the owner of the home that was under construction in Satilla Shores, the neighborhood where Ahmaud Arbery was killed. A home that over a period of months increasingly seemed to be the source of tension and concern in that community.

Larry English says because it was a home under construction, he put up security cameras because he knew that people are drawn to sites like that. And sure enough, his cameras caught a number of people coming at all different times of the day.

But he noted that there was one African-American male who did show up on a number of occasions at night. And yes, he admits that there was concern. He called 911 and he may have reported to a least one neighbor about his concerns.

But then he was emphatic. He said every single time he saw that man on video he never took anything. Never harmed anything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he take anything that night?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever see anything in his hands - a bag or flashlight, or sort of things on him?


SAVIDGE (on camera): We do know that on February 23rd, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was seen inside of that same home, and it was when he ran away from that house that the whole tragic series of events -- the pursuit, and then the cornering, and then the killing by three men, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, who were joined by a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan.

The men say they were pursuing because they believed that Ahmaud had committed a crime. Larry English's testimony would seem to say not in my house, he didn't.

There was also a bizarre incident that occurred on Friday, and that came from defense attorney Kevin Gough who represents William "Roddie" Bryan, Jr. Gough was getting up to complain outside of the jury's presence about the Rev. Al Sharpton being in the public space of the courtroom the day before. Here is what he said.

KEVIN GOUGH, ATTORNEY FOR WILLIAM "RODDIE" BRYAN: We don't want any more Black pastors coming in here or other Jesse Jackson -- whoever was in -- was in here earlier this week -- sitting with the victim's family trying to influence a jury in this case. If a bunch of folks came in here dressed like Col. Sanders with white masks, sitting in the back.

SAVIDGE (on camera): This is a case that is surrounded by the issue of race, and to complain that there are too many Black pastors, the judge didn't know what to make of it. There was no formal motion and so he moved on -- Christine and Laura.


JARRETT: Martin Savidge, thank you for that report. Two Pennsylvania teens are charged with murder for the death of an 8-

year-old girl who was killed by police gunfire. Three police officers opened fire last August on a car they believed was involved in a shootout, killing Fanta Bility and wounding three others.

Delaware County prosecutors say 16-year-old Angelo Ford and 18-year- old Hasein Strand started that shootout during a football game. Ford is in custody now. Police are still searching for Strand.

A grand jury will determine if deadly force by the officers was justified.

ROMANS: Just a tragedy there.

Fifty minutes past the hour this Friday morning. Let's get a check on CNN Business.

Looking at markets around the world, Asian shares closed higher. Europe has opened narrowly mixed. And on Wall Street, stock index futures leaning a little bit higher.


It was a mixed day for investors Thursday. The Dow fell 158 points, its third straight day of losses. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq managed a slight rebound, but the S&P 500 is down about one percent for the week.

New data on the number of job openings for September comes out in just a couple of hours. The number of job openings fell to 10.4 million in August, but a record 4.3 million people quit their jobs.

A few reasons why people are quitting or not returning to the workforce. There are still childcare concerns. People are looking for better pay, better working conditions, and more flexible working arrangements.

JARRETT: Week 10 of the NFL season kicking off with an upset in Miami. Andy Scholes has it all covered in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


So, this game between the Dolphins and the Ravens last night -- it was an offensive struggle. It was the first game of the season where there were more punts than points through the first three quarters.

The best play of the game was one that didn't even count. Third quarter, Dolphins running the screen play here. Offensive lineman Robert Hunt is going to decide to catch it out of the air. And look at the big man -- takes it beautifully and stretches out for the touchdown. Only problem was it wasn't an eligible receiver, so it did not count. Miami kicked the field goal there.

With it 9-3 in the fourth quarter, Sammy Watkins fumbles the ball after the catch. Xavien Howard picks it up and weaves his way for a 49-yard touchdown.

Dolphins pull off the upset 22-10 the final. The first time in Lamar Jackson's career the Ravens scored just 10 points in a game.

All right, the Los Angeles Rams, meanwhile, coming out of nowhere to win the Odell Beckham Jr. Sweepstakes. The team adding the three-time pro-bowler to an already star-studded roster. OBJ was released by the Browns last week after not being happy with how the team was using him. He could make his debut with the Rams on Monday against the 49ers in San Francisco.

Lakers' superstar LeBron James excited to have his good friend in the same city, tweeting "Welcome to L.A., my brother. It's go time!"

All right. The Carolina Panthers, meanwhile, bringing back quarterback Cam Newton. The former number-one overall pick spent nine years in Charlotte, which included a Super Bowl run in 2015. The signing comes after the club lost Sam Darnold for four to six weeks due to a shoulder injury.

Carolina head coach Matt Rhule says P.J. Walker is expected to start on Sunday against the Cardinals while Newton gets up to speed.

All right, the college basketball season just a few days old but we may already have seen the buzzer-beater of the year. U.C. Riverside pulling off the incredible upset against Arizona State. J.P. Moorman, a desperation heave that was well beyond half court. Let's take another look. The Highlanders celebrating the 66-65 victory. They were 11-point underdogs in that game.

All right, finally -- in the NBA, things getting heated between the Pacers and the Jazz. Late in the fourth quarter, Indiana center Myles Turner blocks a layup from Rudy Gobert. Gobert, knocked off balance, decided to take Turner down with him by grabbing his shorts. The two then kind of acted like they wanted to fight but really just gave each other some really aggressive hugs. Four players ended up getting ejected after that.

The Pacers go on to hand the Jazz their first home loss of the season, 111-100.

But you know, guys, that's the best kind of fight in the NBA where you just really just give each other a big hug like, you know, we don't want to fight.

JARRETT: I'm not sure --

SCHOLES: Let's just -- let's just embrace really aggressively.

JARRETT: I'm not sure I would call that a really aggressive hug, but I'll trust --

ROMANS: We keep --

JARRETT: -- I'll trust your analysis over mine, Andy.

ROMANS: We keep our fighting off-camera so no one can see how we -- how we do it. But we can try that one next time.

All right, nice to see you, Andy.

JARRETT: Thanks, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Queen Elizabeth will attend her first public engagement in two weeks. She had been told, of course, by her doctors to rest. Now she is out in the public eye again. The 95-year-old monarch will attend the U.K.'s annual Remembrance Day service in London on Sunday.

She spent a night in a hospital last month for what a spokesman described as preliminary investigations.

JARRETT: That's so British. Preliminary investigations.

ROMANS: I should have done it with a British accent but I'm not good.

JARRETT: All right.

Finally, this morning, a sure sign the holidays are near. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has been cut and is headed for New York City. For the first time ever this year, the tree comes from Maryland.

The Norway Spruce is 79 feet tall, weighs nearly 12 tons, and is close to 80 years old. They cut down an 80-year-old tree. It will be erected in Rockefeller Center on Saturday. The tree-lighting is December first.

ROMANS: Do you have your Christmas list made?

JARRETT: Yes, and --

ROMANS: Have you started shopping?

JARRETT: Oh, yes. I've been hiding the gifts all over the house --

ROMANS: I know, me, too.

JARRETT: -- so that he can't find them.

ROMANS: I'm so worried about the supply chain crisis --


ROMANS: -- that I've made a list and I'm going down the list.

JARRETT: I have warned everyone in my family Christine Romans says get your Christmas gifts now, people.

ROMANS: Do not wait.

All right, an ultimatum from the January 6 Committee. Mark Meadows shows up today or the former chief of staff to President Trump will risk criminal contempt.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: Have a great day, everyone. I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.

ROMANS: Have a great weekend.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Friday, November 12th. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

And this morning, deadline. Mark Meadows, Donald Trump's former White House chief of staff, has four hours to show up before Congress or face contempt charges. The committee investigating the insurrection has demanded to see him and says it's done waiting. Meadows' attorney issued a statement.